As I continue my adventures in trying to become a real "artist", I decided that I wanted to have some good photographs taken of my art. As I learn what makes me tick, what makes me "me" in art I've noticed my style begin to take form. Now I am truly beginning to flow. I have found the medium that makes me feel complete and content. It is still watercolor, but it also gives wings to the little crafter in me.
One day as I was driving home from work I found myself thinking that just framing my illustrations wasn't quite what I wanted. I was afraid (and still am) that my art would get lost among the many much more talented artist at the art shows and fairs I would be attending this summer. I needed something unique to make my stuff pop.
Then it hit me. Nichos. I have always loved nichos. Nichos are a very American- and here I mean it in the true sense of the word- as in: from the Americas, and not just USA. They are a native reinterpretation of the Catholic reliquaries and small altars the Spaniards had in their homes. Converted natives would use tin- new and recycled, to make their altars to their saints, the virgin, the day of the dead, or even a beloved family member and place small treasures inside, flowers, a small candle, or "Milagros" (miracles), tiny charms in the shape of whatever they were praying for, a leg or foot if they felt pain, a set of eyes for either protection from the "evil eye" or the more mundane headache, an ear of corn to ask for better crops and so on. I love how these nichos have become popular art, a little kitschy and prosaic in Mexico, but oh so unique, colorful and full or charm and original beauty to me.
Not having grown up in Mexico, I would get to visit some summers here and there. So for me, it was an odd feeling of being a tourist in the country of my birth. And as a tourist, I loved the market, and all the beautiful and simple decorations the Indians sold there. My favorites were always the nichos and painted tin hearts. This is a nod to my beloved art from Mexico and to the country of my birth. I hope I am doing it justice while giving it an original twist.
Every nicho (they are incredibly hard to find here online- especially unpainted!) is an original. I get the tin shape bare of any paint except a protective coating to prevent rusting. I use watercolor ground on most and a few are painted with water based markers (for the fine detailed ones which look like middle eastern filigree). I then paint them with watercolor paints and decorate them with as much found and recycled embellishments as I can, though I also use findings such as yarns, brass charms, Czech glass beads, freshwater pears, and embroidered ribbons. My favorite items to use are recycled silk saris, bullet casings and recycled glass beads from Ghana. I line them with hand made Japanese and Nepalese papers and then place an original watercolor or a limited print of one of my watercolors. Finally I place small stones, driftwood or beach glass I collect in my walks along Lake Michigan, dried flowers (also collected by me), and even a feather or two donated by Luci, my beloved pigeon. This may not be "fine" art, but a piece of me (and Luci!) is in each and every nicho.
Now last but no least, back to the deacon to photograph my stuff. I love these nichos so much, and they represent such a major part of me, that I really wanted to photograph them well enough to capture this feel. I made a few attempts on my own but then it also hit me. Just like the idea of what to do to make my art unique came like a flash, so did the idea of who could best capture this style. My dear friend Ashlie. She, like me, has embarked on a journey to express what she loves to do, to make it hers and make it unique. Her love is photography. Over the years I have seen her work blossom. From good photographs, captured moments, to images that are rich in the story they tell. Photos so lush I can almost smell the place and feel the textures and live the moment she's capturing.
I was a little afraid to reach out to Ashlie, because business with friends can be tricky and because I didn't know if my request would put her in an awkward position. But to my surprise, she was curious and excited about the challenge.
She came through. The results are most of what you see in my nichos gallery. I am so blown away by her talent and her creativity. She did a beautiful job. I am so pleased, so delighted! I know for sure I want all my nichos to be photographed by her. She makes them so perfect it makes me want to keep them all! But mostly, it makes me hope that they will go to homes where they will be loved. The title photo for my Nicho category has her webpage so that you can check out her magical eye. Enjoy!